Rachel Mulvaney is the Vice President of Curvy Girls, an international support group for girls with scoliosis. You might remember that we interviewed the group's founder, Leah Stoltz, on the Scoliosis SOS blog last year - this time around, we have a Q&A with Rachel, whose scoliosis story is rather different from Leah's but no less inspirational.

Curvy Girls Scoliosis

So, Rachel - when did you first learn that you had scoliosis?

I was nine years old when my school nurse detected my curves during a scoliosis screening examination. With a 35-degree curve, bracing was immediately recommended - I wore a brace 16 hours a day for nearly 3 years. However, several months after I'd been discharged from bracing, my back pain worsened and we learned that my curve had progressed to 42 degrees.

It was during this time that my mother was doing research for the book that we were writing, Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. We learned about a scoliosis-specific exercise called the Schroth method, and in 2010, I travelled to a scoliosis clinic in Wisconsin for an intensive two-week programme.

And how well did the treatment work?

I believe it worked very well for me. The back brace did stabilise my curves, but my scoliosis continued to progress as I was never educated on how to hold my body in an upright position without depending on my brace. It was the Schroth method that improved my scoliosis and eliminated my chronic back pain. Those scoliosis-specific exercises taught me how to strengthen my weakened muscles, maintain correction, and most importantly, live a pain-free life.

After eight months of consistently doing the exercises, my 42-degree curve reduced to 30 degrees. This was a surprise to my orthopaedic surgeon, as I was already skeletally matured. And my success did not end there - by the summer of 2013, my curved had reduced to 22 degrees.

How did you get involved with Curvy Girls?

I became involved with Curvy Girls before we even had a formal name! Twelve years ago, my physical therapist introduced me to Leah Stoltz, who told me that she wanted to start a scoliosis support group for people our age. When she asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting, I said yes without any hesitation. Several weeks later, I went to the first meeting at her home on 6th August 2006.

Tell us about the role you play in Curvy Girls today.

Today, I am proud to say that I am the Vice President of Curvy Girls. Since 2012, I have co-led and co-created our International Biennial Curvy Girls Scoliosis Conventions with Leah. I also serve as a mentor for our Curvy Girl Leaders in the New York and New England regions.

I also make myself available to educate and advocate for the Schroth method. Over the years, I have invited medical professionals (as well as newly-diagnosed families) into my home to demonstrate how effective these exercises can be for a scoliotic spine.

And what do you do in your life outside of Curvy Girls?

Outside of Curvy Girls, I work as a Care Coordinator II at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where I facilitate and manage an oncologists' clinic and help run our chemotherapy unit. I am also preparing to go back to college to receive my master's in Public Health. I have a strong interest in research, epidemiology and preventative care.

Has helping other people with their spinal curves helped you to come to terms with your own condition and experiences?

Absolutely - helping other girls was like a form of medicine to me. Educating families about the Schroth method helped me to discover a purpose and drive within me that I never knew existed.

Throughout my bracing years, I was told that my chronic back pain did not exist because scoliosis 'does not cause any pain'. I was one of many patients who were spoken to in this way. But after learning a programme that both validated and eliminated my pain, I was determined to spread the word. I wanted to make sure all Curvy Girl families had the opportunity to know that this treatment existed. How can we make the best decisions for our health if we don't know what all of our options are?

What advice would you give to a young girl who's just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

I would encourage that young girl to join a Curvy Girls chapter so she can see for herself that she is not alone. I would tell her about our conventions and how many girls she will meet from all around the world who are going through the same experiences she is.

And what advice would you give to the people close to them?

For family members, I would advise them to read Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. This book includes health education, emotional support, and a dedicated section for parents.

For teachers, please show empathy and understanding of the needs she may have. Allow her to step away from her desk if she begins to feel back pain, as sitting for too long in a back brace can lead to discomfort. Excuse her from class if she needs to temporarily leave and take her brace off.

For friends, please be kind and accepting. This is a sensitive time for your friend. Offer to take her shopping to find clothes that will make her feel more confident when she wears her brace to school. You could even suggest helping her name her brace in order to make the brace a part of the friendship you all share.

Visit www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com to learn more about Curvy Girls, or follow @CurvyGirlsScoli on Twitter.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis using a Schroth-based programme called ScolioGold therapy - learn all about it here.

Schroth Method Exercises

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we've been successfully treating scoliosis patients for in excess of 12 years. Our comprehensive ScolioGold treatment programme combines a variety of well-known therapeutic techniques, and the exercises that we teach our patients allow them to manage their symptoms and prevent progression from the comfort of their own home.

One of the fundamental components of the ScolioGold programme is the world-renowned Schroth method, in which our staff our expertly trained. Schroth exercises have helped countless people all over the world to improve their posture and overcome the symptoms of scoliosis (and other spinal conditions). It is named for Katharina Schroth, the German physiotherapist who devised this treatment technique; Schroth was a scoliosis sufferer herself, and having made great progress with her own condition, she eventually opened a clinic.

 

How do Schroth method exercises benefit people with scoliosis?

Our Schroth-based exercises are customised to each patient's unique spinal curvature, as well as their age and physical ability. The Scoliosis SOS Clinic's use of the Schroth method has allowed 88% of our patients to avoid the need for spinal fusion surgery. We also:

  • Use a specific rotational breathing technique to correct spinal rotation and increase the patient's lung capacity

  • Rebalance the patient's spinal position using pelvic corrections and isometric contractions

  • Make patients more aware of their posture on a daily basis, ensuring they have the correct equipment at home and at work to maintain their corrected position

Contact us now to book a consultation >

 

Examples of Schroth method exercises

Here are just a few of the stretches and exercises that make up the Schroth method:

1. Prone on stool

One of the core Schroth exercises performed in a prone position, facing towards the floor. Depending on the patient's classification, condition, previous medical history and symptoms, this exercise has the potential to correct:

  • A thoracic curve using shoulder traction, shoulder counter-traction and the de-rotation breathing technique
  • A lumbar curve via activation of the iliopsoas muscle

With a different setup, it can also be used to help thoracolumbar curves.

Prone on Stool Exercise

This exercise requires quite a few pieces of equipment including tubes, stools, belts, straps, beanbags and wedges. Watch our patient Isobel perform this exercise during a check-up appointment at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic:

 

2. Semi-hanging

This primary Schroth exercise uses gravity to stretch out the spine and relieve pressure on vertebral joints. At the same time, the patient will be applying the rotational breathing technique to flatten the prominent areas of their back, activating their muscles on exhalation to train their body to remember the corrected position when they stop exercising.

Semi-Hanging Schroth Exercise

This is often used as a preparation exercise at the beginning of a treatment session. A set of wall bars (or equivalent) is necessary to perform this exercise effectively.

Watch our patient Nicole, who travelled from Ghana to the UK for scoliosis treatment, practice this exercise with her therapist:

 

3. Iliopsoas on a ball

This is a very patient-specific Schroth exercise that is only suitable for someone with a lumbar or thoracolumbar curve. It works by utilising the activation of the iliopsoas muscle to help de-rotate the affected portion of the patient's spine. This is one of the simpler Schroth method exercises, requiring only a gym ball and wall bars (or equivalent).

Iliopsoas Ball Exercise

Here at the clinic, patients often receive assistance from the therapists using myofascial release techniques to 'mobilise' the spine and help the patient to achieve a straight posture in standing.

Watch our patient Molly from Suffolk perform this exercise:

The Schroth component of our ScoliGold therapy course places huge emphasis on conscious correction of posture throughout daily life, not just during exercise therapy. Education is paramount: throughout your 4-week course, our therapists will help you to learn about scoliosis and your body to ensure that you can recognise an abnormal posture and correct it accordingly.

Schroth therapy combined with a vast number of other techniques has been scientifically proven to prevent progression, improve posture and cosmetic appearance, reduce pain, improve quality of life, and reduce the patient's Cobb angle by up to 20 degrees.

To enrol on one of our Schroth-based scoliosis treatment courses, contact us online or give us a call on 0207 488 4428.

Schroth Best Practice Method

Developed by Dr Hans-Rudolf Weiss, the grandson of Katharina Schroth, the Schroth Best Practice Method® is a form of non-surgical scoliosis treatment that aims to reduce the patient's Cobb angle. This is achieved via a carefully-chosen set of stretches and other exercises.

Schroth Best Practice therapy is effectively a simplified version of the acclaimed Schroth method, which was developed by Weiss's grandmother. The new method was developed based on more recent research, and it adds a number of easy-to-perform exercises to Katharina Schroth's original programme.

Many clinics, both in the UK and elsewhere, use the Schroth Best Practice Method® to treat scoliosis patients who do not wish to undergo spinal fusion surgery. The Best Practice programme is often used in conjunction with a Gensingen brace (also developed by Dr Weiss) to achieve the best possible results for the patient.

Do Scoliosis SOS use the Schroth Best Practice Method® to treat scoliosis?

If you're familiar with the work we do here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, you probably know that the principles of the Schroth method are a huge influence on our own approach to scoliosis treatment; for a time, we were actually the UK's only provider of Schroth-based scoliosis therapy. We believe that Schroth's exercises can be massively beneficial, and we've seen first-hand how effective they can be when it comes to reducing a patient's Cobb angle.

However, we decided some time ago that we shouldn't restrict ourselves to only treating patients using the Schroth method. Scoliosis is a complex condition that can manifest itself in many different ways, and we feel that the Schroth programme only addresses a portion of the overall problem.

So instead of continuing to treat patients using the Schroth method alone, we developed our very own therapeutic programme with a view to treating every aspect of scoliosis. We call it the ScolioGold method, and in addition to Schroth exercises, it consists of...

...and a wide variety of other proven non-surgical treatment techniques. The entire programme is specifically tailored to the needs of scoliosis sufferers, and if our patient testimonials are anything to go by, it's an extremely effective approach that gets real results.

Do you (or a loved one) suffer from scoliosis? Contact Scoliosis SOS now to book an initial consultation.

Schroth Method Exercises

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, one of the methods we use to treat our patients is a set of techniques known as the Schroth method. It is possibly the best-known way to treat scoliosis without surgical intervention, and we have helped countless patients to improve their posture and other symptoms of scoliosis using this treatment method.

The Schroth method is named after Katharina Schroth, the German physiotherapist who devised this approach to scoliosis treatment. She suffered with scoliosis herself, and after making a very promising improvement with her condition, she decided to open up her own clinic. After Katharina's death, her daughter continued her work until 1995, when the clinic was sold to a large corporate organisation.

The Schroth method uses stretches and exercises to develop the inner muscles of the rib cage in order to change the shape of the upper truck and to correct the spinal abnormalities in all three planes of the body. This treatment method also places emphasis on the conscious correction of posture during day-to-day life.

Schroth Scoliosis Treatment

The exercises included in our ScolioGold treatment method help to improve the patient's scoliotic posture and breathing pattern with the help of proprioceptive and exteroceptive stimulation and mirror control.

What is the Rigo-Schroth method?

The Rigo-Schroth method is a modification of the Schroth method. Devised in the 1980s by a Spanish practitioner named Dr Manuel Rigo, it is based on much the same regime of stretches as the Schroth method itself; however, the Rigo-Schroth method is structured differently, with significantly more emphasis on the role of the therapist.

How do we use the Schroth and Rigo-Schroth methods?

Back when we first opened our clinic, our treatment courses were entirely based on the Schroth method, but over the years, we noticed that some aspects of scoliosis were not addressed through use of the Schroth method alone. So, to ensure that all aspects of each patient's condition are fully treated, we've combined the Schroth and Rigo-Schroth method with a number of other exercise-based / non-surgical treatment techniques to help provide our patients with a fully comprehensive treatment package.

Click here to read more about ScolioGold therapy, or contact us today if you’re interested in booking a treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic.

See also: Examples of Schroth method exercises

Schroth Method Australia

The Schroth method is a non-surgical approach to scoliosis treatment that, through an intensive programme of stretches and exercises, alleviates symptoms such as back pain, muscle weakness, and reduced flexibility.

When properly administered by a skilled practitioner, Schroth treatment can eliminate the need for spinal fusion surgery (an operation that is often used to halt the progression of spinal curves, but which - like any surgical procedure - carries with it a number of risks). As a result, the Schroth method is a very popular, highly sought-after treatment route amongst scoliosis sufferers who would prefer not to go under the knife.

The problem is that qualified Schroth practitioners are in fairly short supply. Depending on where in the world you live, it may be very difficult or even impossible to get Schroth treatment in your own country. For this reason, many scoliosis sufferers have travelled great distances in order to visit a Schroth clinic, get treated, and bring their condition under control without having to undergo surgery.

Schroth treatment in Australia

Australia is one country where Schroth method practitioners are few and far between. Because of this, many Australians with curved spines have made the long journey to England in order to complete an intensive ScolioGold treatment course here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London.

Monay, a teenager from Queenland, was one such Australian. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 14 after suffering from back pain for a long time; post-diagnosis, she tried countless different treatment methods, including osteopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and the EMMETT technique. However, Monay was unsatisfied with the outcome of these assorted treatments, and so she decided to come to London and try ScolioGold therapy instead.

Watch the video below to find out what Monay thought of our treatment programme.

"I feel a lot more independent...I don't have to rely on treatment every week, I can just do it myself."

Are ScolioGold therapy and the Schroth method identical?

ScolioGold - the Scoliosis SOS Clinic's own treatment regime - is actually a combination of numerous non-surgical techniques. The Schroth method has always been at the heart of our programme, but ScolioGold therapy also incorporates a range of other proven methods, such as:
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
  • Kinesio taping
  • Functional Independent Treatment for Scoliosis (FITS)
  • Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS)
  • Myofascial release
  • Trigger point therapy
If you live in Australia (or elsewhere in the world) and you're looking for Schroth-based scoliosis treatment in an English-speaking country, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic would be more than happy to welcome you. We even offer on-site accommodation right in the centre of London - all of the famous tourist hotspots are right on our doorstep, and like Monay, you'll have plenty of time to check them all out if you're so inclined.

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